Review: NIGHT SQUAD, by David Goodis

NIGHT SQUAD, by David Goodis

NIGHT SQUAD, by David Goodis

A very interesting noir piece by a writer whose troubled soul (and alcoholism) kept him from securing a place in the pantheon of pulp writers who achieved recognition beyond the genre. (His book, Dark Passage,” was made into an unusual Bogart/Bacall film in 1947.)

A down-and-out, disgraced ex-cop surviving in his netherworld community of darkness, rain, water, and despair is contracted by the local criminal boss for a mysterious task that the ex-cop must slowly deduce. Then he’s “recruited” by the boss of the police department’s special unit, “Night Squad.” And this boss has very special and personal reasons for wanting the criminal boss eliminated.

They’re all here — broads, bimbos, and courtesans; cons, crooks, and grifters, all uniquely drawn and brought to life. It’s all here — booze, “tea,” gun battles, brawls, lust, and hot pursuits. In the end, Goodis’s talent, like Chandler’s or Hammett’s or Cain’s (to name a few), was not giving us  happy endings for any of these characters. Even the police boss’s revenge is tinged with vinegar.  In this world, darkness prevails.

Once he was a nobody…

Whenever I listen to this Youtube clip from the 2004 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame ceremony and enjoy Prince’s remarkable solo, it reminds me of the following experience behind the wheel…

limoIt had been a good day. In the morning, a simple red-eye arrival from Hong Kong or Tokyo. I forget which. A sleepy businessman in his fifties, or maybe it was a woman. I forget. Not much luggage, a quick Beverly Hills drop-off at a house on Bedford. Or maybe it was Roxbury. A nod of thanks. An easy two hours minimum plus 15% gratuity.

Then an airport run from the Beverly Wilshire for an English actor known for his romantic roles and Oscar nominations. He’s traveling with his boyfriend, who’s a lot younger. This is no surprise to me. when gossip columnists want the inside stories, they talk to limo drivers. Not that I’d tell them anything. Another two hours and another 15%.

The radio was silent so I took number 18 back to the car-barn. That bastard Al gave me a ticket for a musician and his AR. I assumed he was a musician because the instructions said they were to travel from the l’Hermitage in Beverly Hills, where the artist was staying, to Warner Bros. Records’ offices. I was to wait and then take the pair back to the hotel. Nowhere else.

Orders like this were typical with the new artists. Some of them get real excited in the car. They want to drive around. Cruise the old neighborhood. Be seen getting in and getting out of a nice limo. I liked thinking that this ticket could net me four easy hours. Plus 15%.

On my way to l’Hermitage I cruised downtown Beverly Hills and let people wonder who was sitting in the back of number 18. “Paparazzi trolling.” Makes them crazy, especially when they gang up on the car at a red-light and you roll down the back windows. Maybe they have a place in the food chain. I thought they were parasites.

The musician is a little guy with cocoa brown skin, a beauty contestant’s face, and long, curly black hair with a spit-curl hanging over his forehead. He reminded me of a porcelain doll. He never said a word, just looked out the window with his pale eyes and lashes longer than a girl’s while his AR told him what a great break he’s getting, meeting this big-name producer. The musician nodded at whatever was passing by outside the window.

At Warners, I got out, taking my driver’s cap, which I usually didn’t do. This could be the musician’s only visit to Hollywood, I thought. I’ll contribute something he can remember. He got out. I touched the brim of my cap. He smiled up at me and said, “Thank you.” He’d be seeing a lot of limo drivers.

A few months later, the little cocoa-colored musician’s first album went double platinum and all the girls and plenty of boys wanted to share his bed. I hear he’s got his own limos now and he’s dating a chick with tits as big as coconuts.

You never know who will be in the back seat… #prince

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Happy Oscar day!

limoAllow me to say that I hope that the hundreds (thousands?) of limousine drivers working the Oscars tonight have a better time parked somewhere near the not-Kodak Theater than I did in 1979 being gassed in a subterranean garage near the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. And, while we’re talking about limousines, consider acquiring your e-book copy of “L.A. Limo Tales,” Life Behind the Wheel in the Days of Posers, Power-brokers, and Big Hair Bands.

Keeping track of research…

JP_CoverPage_313x231I once had a writing partner who was a maniacal note-taker, but his organization skills left a great deal to be desired. One day, I couldn’t help but notice pages and pages and yellow pad after yellow pad strewn around the floor of his living room. When I asked him how he kept track of what he had written, he tapped his head and said, “It’s all up here.” I pointed at the floor and said, “Maybe, but it looks to me like it’s all over there.”

Starting work on my Las Vegas crime novel, “Joey’s Place,” and its planned prequels, I knew that tracking and utilizing the research necessary would be a challenge. I started looking for research software. One I found was Personal Brain.

Having three hundred years of known facts about southern Nevada and the southwest as well as the biographies and character sketches of many individuals (great and not-so-great) readily available and easy to access was a necessity. Then there was the geological and pre-historic information that I would need to give my stories veracity. And I wanted to be able to link or relate elements of my research quickly, easily, and flexibly.

Thirty or more years ago, I would probably have had index boxes filled with cards, like a library’s card catalog system. Thankfully, computer software eliminated that. But hierarchical outlines and index card software (and I tried and used quite a few) usually forced me to tediously apply either hyperlinks or connecting “arrows” that didn’t give me the whole picture pertaining to an event, person, or locale with a single click or “mouse-over.”

Keeping track of my own notes and research had always been a challenge (but never to the extent of my writing partner’s non-system). Then I discovered “Personal Brain” software. After testing its demo version, I realized that this was software that could keep my work organized and still allow me the flexibility I needed for basic brainstorming.


For example, in the image at right, you can see the connections I created from and to the Flamingo Hotel/Casino. In the text box are the various facts I gathered about the resort — its origins, dates, events, etc. — from a variety of sources, online and in books or magazines. This thought is a “child” of a parent thought called “Hotels/Casinos” and, on the right of the Personal Brain screen, you can see all the other thoughts linked to this parent. On the left of the screen are “jump” thoughts to individuals (in this case) who had some type of connection to the Flamingo. Note how these individuals can also be linked via “jumps” to the other establishments (on right of screen) with which they were associated. You can also see how the establishments themselves can be associated with “jump” links. It’s just as easy to remove the links if you want or need to. Expanding and decreasing the size of the text displayed in the thoughts area, or “Plex,” is as simple as click ‘n’ drag.

Across the top of the screen are “thoughts” (mostly parent thoughts), that I have “pinned” for quick and easy access. Across the bottom is a history of the thoughts that I have most recently accessed. New thoughts arise from old thoughts, old thoughts and links are revised and altered as new ideas occur. Just as important, research information is readily available for review with full text formatting to indicate what has been used, what might be used, or what is still needed.

If you are looking for a powerful research and brainstorming tool, you might want to consider Personal Brain.

(I have no personal or professional connection to the vendor of this software.)